R+B beauty Mya is stressing the importance of mammograms to her female fans, after her own singing debut was marred by her mother's battle with the deadly disease.

The 24-year-old former dancer was thrilled when her dream of becoming a chart-topping star were being realised with the release of her first single IT'S ALL ABOUT ME - but the celebrations were overshadowed by her mother's illness.

She recalls, "She detected it in 1998 during the release of my first single. For a whole year afterward, she had chemotherapy. She was really sick and lost all her hair.

"It was really tough, because I was gone on the road, wondering what would happen next. Thankfully, she's okay now.

"I learned a lot about breast cancer. I know that now, because my mom had it, I'm at risk myself. I want to teach young girls about what to do.

"You know, when they're going through adolescence, that's actually the time to start checking. I have a friend who detected breast cancer at the age of 19. She's okay now, but it has hurt so many young women.

"It's really important to get the awareness out there."

16/10/2003 09:11